Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey

Persepolis rising is the seventh book in The Expanse Series. It is probably the least eventful of the series, and the most predictable. As far as Sci-Fi books go; it’s a great book. Persepolis Rising was well written and excellently orchestrated.  There are a lot of really interesting situations and arguments involving the philosophy of power dynamics and political science, kind of in the same vein as Ender’s Game.

That said, everything in the book is sort of the next steps from the previous books. There are no major plot twists or unexpected turns. Everything happens exactly how you expect it to.

Persepolis Rising

I will freely admit that my expectations for this book were unrealistic, but I can’t help feeling disappointed. There wasn’t really anything new. All the same bad guys are still around. Lots of things went unresolved, like where is Phillip? How old must Avasarala be now? Bobbie Draper who is now an old lady, was just out of her teens calling Avasarala a grandma in previous books.

I still recommend reading this incredible series, but I was hoping for more from this latest installment.

It reminds me of the way the last Harry Potter movie was split into two parts, and how incomplete and underwhelming the first half seemed.  I came to the end of this story asking myself where the rest of it was.

Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

This is the last book in The Foundation Series, chronologically. There are two more books by date of publication which are prequels to the series.

This book made me sad. It felt gratuitous and contrived. I don’t think his heart was in it.

This book picks up at the exact second the previous book leaves off. The explorers head out to find earth. They encounter very gratuitous and graphic descriptions of sex, and a rather underwhelming adventure compared to the previous books.

In the prologue, Asimov seems to say he only wrote this book because the publisher offered so much money for another Foundation book.

It does tie the many Asimov serieses together, and serves a satisfying role in that regard. But on its own, it is an unimpressive and disappointing book. :[

That said, the last page of the book is probably one of the best he ever wrote. It leaves you asking a million questions which you know will never be answered. I feel like this is a book which a fan or Asimov must read, but one which I don’t see myself reading again.

Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov

Written thirty years after the previous book, Foundation’s Edge is a worthy successor to the trilogy which holds the Best Series of All Time award.

Foundation’s Edge comes at a time when the author was able to get a better perspective on the future of information technology which was only just starting to condense in the early eighties. This new book adds more realistic future-tech to an already amazing story. His inclusion of direct mind-interface computing and direct-gravitic propulsion are things which are still on the horizon, forty years later.

I especially liked his description of the feeling of terror which overcomes a user when they disconnect their mind from the computer. They suddenly lose touch with the vastly expanded perception of a starship and its wealth of information. This was a masterful element early on in the story. This is already something we see today when a person is tragically — if momentarily — pried away from their smartphone. They seem to suddenly devolve into a feral australopithecine in desperate search for the life-giving charger cord which will end their torment. I can only imagine the effect if our connection to smartphones imparted all the things Cavil opined for in Battlestar Galactica;

I don’t want to be human. I want to see gamma rays, I want to hear X-rays, and I want to smell dark matter. Do you see the absurdity of what I am? I can’t even express these things properly, because I have to—I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid, limiting spoken language, but I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws, and feel the solar wind of a supernova flowing over me. I’m a machine, and I can know much more.

It’s also worth noting that this story connects to not only Asimov’s Robots series, but also his Eternity series. This was a really great book which I will recommend time and again. I can’t wait to finish the rest of this series and the two others I mentioned. Then I can reread them all and finally connect all the dots!

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

This is the third of five books in the Foundation series. It introduces Asimov’s mentalics motif in the main; we meet many characters who like the Mule, have the power of telepathic emotional control over others. We learn a lot more about Seldon and his plan. The plan and those who execute it are forced to consider and implement tactics regarding individuals for the first time, rather than simply large groups. And we see the resurgence of a defeated foundation facilitated in large part by an unwitting teenager.

Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov

In the first half of this book, the Mule at the head of the defeated First Foundation is desperately seeking the Second Foundation, the only force which he believes could eventually threaten him.

In the second half of the book, we see the Second Foundation looking for direction as the plan hangs by a thread and it tries to grapple the various factors conspiring against the plan throughout the galaxy.

This was a really great read. I don’t know why I waited so long to get this far in the series! 10/10.

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

This is the second book of Asimov’s Foundation Series. This is a worthy sequel to a great start. 10/10.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the way he chooses words and phrases, which seems different from his other books. He might describe two politicians who hold the same office; one who is a wise and strong leader who rose to the challenge of the times and took office only after some hesitation, and a second who seems inept and only in office because of nepotism.  For the first, Asimov might use a word like “office” to describe his physical workplace, but for the second, he might use a phrase like “palace,” appealing to motifs from Rome before the fall. The latter says things like “I am the state,” infamous late words of The Emperor Napoleon. There are many interesting motifs throughout the book used to differentiate characters whose ideologies place them on either the rising or the falling side  of civilization.

Isaac Asimov - Foundation and Empire

At the beginning of the book, we find the Foundation several centuries into living out Seldon’s secret plan for them. The first half of the book is about a general who comes to conquer the Foundation. The second half is about the rise of a new menace. There are several MAJOR surprises which become existential plot twists. Like Seldon, I won’t give too much detail, but buckle up because this one is a more traumatic read than the first book.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asmiov’s Foundation series and especially this first book are perhaps his greatest achievement. It’s no wonder this series won the Hugo for “Best Series of All Time.” The core question seems to be, “What if history is not on your side?” or perhaps, “What role does an individual play in history?”

 

Asimov Foundation

The story starts out with a man called Hari Seldon explaining that he has developed a new field of math intersecting history and psychology which has the ability to predict the future. It has shown the imminent collapse of civilization. He proposes not to try stop it which is impossible, but to  try to minimize the chaos afterwards and remove thousands of years of unnecessary suffering from the future of human history.

He dies after setting things in motion. For the rest of the book, people try to interpret what he did and what it means for them. Everyone assumes he is on their side. We see the rise of religion to fill the void left by the collapse, then commerce in its place.

It’s interesting to note that many scifi series have done episodes or arcs based on this book. My favorite is probably the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode “Statistical Probabilities.”

The theme many people seem to take from this story is that sometimes surrender is a better option than fighting. This really isn’t what I got from it, but I can understand that interpretation. Many of the characters start with the idea that they are some kind of messiah, and end up accepting what Seldon calls the “inertia” of history. The implication seems to be that an individual is not capable of affecting change on a grand scale. I find this to be obviously incorrect and a poor interpretation, as individuals lead each major change in civilization throughout the story.

In the real world as well as in fiction, any theoretical argument which talks about people only in aggregate and ignores individuals will necessarily fail to be accurate and precise. Everything done is done by individuals.

Obvious real-world examples include Washington, Bonaparte, Machiavelli, Tzu, Alexander. Many people throughout history have become larger than life and accomplished incredible feats in direct opposition to any “inertia” of history.

I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I do know that in the end, this is sort of the point Asimov finally makes.

I can only imagine the impact this series would have if made into movies in the modern world!

❤️ I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

This has been one of my favorite books since I was a child. When I heard the announcement that this year’s theme for Burning Man is going to be “I, Robot,” I decided to reread it. It’s still one of the best books I’ve ever read. I can not say this enough, THIS BOOK HAS ALMOST NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TERRIBLE WILL SMITH MOVIE BY THE SAME NAME.

This book was written nearly a century ago, and yet it deals with many of the issues we are starting to face today;

  • The rise of Artificial Intelligence and the reaction to it.
  • The realization that humans are not running the show anymore, and the assertion that this is a good thing.
  • The definition of what it means to be a person.
  • The alignment problem; “How do we know they want the same things we want.”

At just 253 pages, it goes by quick. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in artificial intelligence. It is also a great first step into the vast universe of the very prolific Asimov. I can’t wait until his dozens of books start being made into good movies. The Foundation series especially is going to be amazing.

Tim Ferriss – The 3 Critical Rules of Branding

What unique benefits does this company/product deliver and who are your 1,000 true fans? How can I turn my casual fans into die-hard fans?

“Focus on what fucking matters and let the rest follow.”

These are the fundamental questions he asks through his three rules of branding. This is a really great episode about differentiating and the value of ignoring branding. There is a lot of practical, tactical information.

I will revisit this episode many times.

Oddly, I was not able to find this episode on his website, but I did find it on Player.fm.

Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast – What Happened to Liberalism?

“The united front of the [American] left broke down over identity issues… There was a retreat to the universities… People on the left really abandoned electoral politics and instead develop this idea that all social change happens through social movements that are tied to identity. And we ended up with gender theory and race theory and we end up with maybe three generations of young people who’ve been brought up to think about politics in terms of group and their own individual identities rather than of the common good and a message that might bind us together as a nation… Blacks complained that most leaders were white, which was true. Feminists complained that most all were men, which was also true. Soon black women were complaining about both the sexism of radical black men and the implicit racism of white feminists—who themselves were being criticized by lesbians for presuming the naturalness of the heterosexual family. What all these groups wanted from politics was more than social justice and an end to the war… they wanted to feel at one with the social movements that mirrored the way they felt as individuals.”

“There’s an economy of victimhood where certain identities trump others… [trying to reach] the apex of grievance so that nothing you say can can be denied by anyone who doesn’t share your identity.”

“What we do fundamentally as liberals is protect minorities… You can not protect anyone if you don’t hold institutional power… If you are not competitive at the state and local level or the congressional level, you can not protect anybody. Now the only way to be successful at those levels is to have a message that reaches beyond your identity group. Therefore if you want to actually protect african americans, gays and lesbians, women who are being paid less than men… You have to find a new message not based on yourself and your feelings and your identity, but a message about certain principles that you hold… and that other people can also hold.”

“If you say to someone, you can not understand me because of who you are… you seal yourself off and fall in love with defeat.”

From “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics” by Mark Lilla and his interview with Sam Harris.

This Week in Startups – Casey Winters and Jason Calicanis talk about CAC and Planning Sustainable Growth

In this great episode, Casey and Jason go in depth on topics around customer acquisition cost and how to measure the sustainability of your product or service’s key actions.

This feeds into a great conversation about what steps to take before a growth phase to make sure you can survive it. This leads into a great discussion about what investors and venture capitalists look for when making decisions or considering a Series-A.

Crucially, they also get into the importance of using multiple customer acquisition channels in order to maximize growth. There is an especially interesting conversation about the differences between channels that have high or low customer acquisition costs and high or low lifetime value.

For example, paid search results advertising has lower lifetime value because the customer may not have been looking for you, whereas grub hub’s transit ads had comparatively high lifetime value because those people naturally formed a relationship with the product.

There are lots of great examples from real startups they each have worked with on these issues, and then there are questions from CEOs in the audience about how the concept applies to them.

I will revisit this episode next time I am at this point in a project!